Note: This is my first post on Destructoid, which in itself, is a repost from ScrewAttack.com, where I'm popular at...Don't throw tomatoes at me!...Well, I want to be part of this Jim Sterling dominated community, so let this introductory post be an insight into my nerdy yet slightly deranged personality. Thanks.
Oh, and I know this is a game website, but I can tell a whole lot of you are animation buffs, and have probably enjoyed Toonami's 11 year life span. Thanks once again.
Back when it launched, it sorta came out of the blue. Right then and there, it grew and grew until it became something special. Something that held value. But soon, it was taken away from us...But don't worry, it's coming back!...Maybe.
This animation block holds sentimental value to me and so many, so here's the story from history's perspective and mine.
We've all been victims to the hands of nostalgia, right? Sometimes, you have this painful memory that won't leave, but you don't want to let go. Have you ever had that feeling? Time has been known to make us the guinea pigs of an experiment known only as "Love and loss".
Toonami's true beginning was with an action block known as the Super Adventure block, which later became Power Zone. Mike Lazzo, a producer from Cartoon Network tasked Sean Akins and Jason DeMarco with creating a sleeker (and possibly permanent) action block that would hold animation much more recent than their previous two blocks. The got duo got to work for 8-10 months. After doing so, they were now tasked with creating a memorable name, but there wass one catch: It couldn't have the word "toon" in it. Despite that rule, "Toonami" ended up in the list of possible names for the block.Akin and DeMarco brought them the list, and immediately, Lazzo chose Toonami, despite the rule he imposed.
Toonami was a radical change-up from its predecessors. First, most of those "timeless" shows from Fleisher and Hanna-Barbara were slowly dumped. Second, animes such as "Dragon Ball" and "Sailor Moon" were run and further popularized, and intelligent, edgy, and contemporary cartoons such as "Batman: The Animated Series" and "The Power Puff Girls" were shown. Third, we were treated by a cool CGI host known as Moltar who often appeared in bumpers showing how badass he was and how bitchin' he ran the place. Fourth, older kids who had a desire to watch animation away from the Nick/CN silliness had something to watch. Fifth, Toonami had a host unlike most blocks, with Moltar (of the Space Ghost franchise) being that host. Quite nice, but it only got better.
Two years later, Toonami was further revamped, and to most people, this is where it truly began; this when people truly started watching. The Dragon Ball series was picking up steam, the focus grew increasingly on anime, and probably the most significant thing that came out of this so-called improvement was a short Bomberman looking robot from outer space named T.O.M. (Toonami Operations Module), who became the face of Toonami; the big force to bring everyone to our beloved show.
T.O.M (voiced by Sonny Strait) replaced Moltar as Toonami's custodian and took worldwide broadcasting duties soon after Moltar saw T.O.M's action in the online comic, "The Swarm". T.O.M. could be described as a sardonic, wisecracking robot, frequently throwing out one-liners and, like Moltar, give sage advice to viewers about moral issues like bravery and standing up for what's right. Infrequently,he'll pass along game reviews, people interviews, and other various commentary. He was created after Akin and DeMarco wanted a host that was more likable and cooler than the previous host Moltar; A mascot like entity with a cool personality. After designing T.O.M., they sought a voice, with Sonny Strait taking the role thanks to his young,laid back sounding voice, and of course, his role as Krillin from Dragon Ball.
"So it's a brand new Toonami, but the mission objectives remain the same. My name is T.O.M.. I'm the new Moltar. Welcome aboard the Ghost Planet Space Ship Absolution, Cartoon Network's first and only interstellar broadcast and exploration vehicle. I'll give you the tour later. From this day forward she is completely responsible for all Toonami transmissions. I'm takin' you guys into the new millennium! No big changes now, same show, same attitude; new place to do it, new guy to do it with. I'm not going to waste any more time, let's get back into it. Later."
-T.O.M.'s first speach.
I remember the first time I watched Toonami; I was a little, plucky but stubborn kid who wasted hours on the old N64 and had a strong love for cartoons (I didn't like live-action shows when I was little. I only watched animation. I thought live-action shows were "caca" when I was little). It was friday night, my dad got home, and he brung some pizza over for my family to eat. I picked up a slice, sat with my dad on the couch, and I asked him to look for some cartoons to watch on the television, and of course, he flipped around for a cartoon for the both of us to watch. After digging through through crap (and live-action), he came across a colorful looking cartoon with lots of action. I saw a little monkey tailed boy in an orange gi fighting in a tournament with lots of tough looking dudes, and needless to say, I was hooked. When the credits rolled, I was kinda sad, but when I saw a little robot dude showing off more cool shows, I dropped all the crud from my mind and I wanted to watch more. Everyday Toonami ran, I wouldn't miss that shit (Unless they were the midnight runs on Saturday). I was an instant fan upon my first viewing, and so were fans before and after me.
Starting in September 2000, Toonami broadcast a "Total Immersion Event"which was a mini-series known as The Intruder on its website and block in which fans could decide the outcome of the event. It introduced T.O.M.'s new companion, S.A.R.A.,but unfortunately, fans decided they wanted T.O.M...Dead...But it was anticipated by the two, and they decided to make use of this.
So after T.O.M. died, what did we get? A reborn version of T.O.M that was taller and sleeker than the original (He was now voiced by Steven Blum from this point on for his deeper sounding voice, and he briefly called himself T.O.M. 2.0). Viewers also go to vote for T.O.M.'s new ship after it got ruined somewhere in the events. This era ended up becoming the most famous era in Toonami's history. According to DeMarco, T.O.M.'s death was a perfect way to revamp the entire block. Deciding to have another fresh start, they further streamlined Toonami to compliment his new look and headquarters. New assortments of action and anime shows like Samurai Jack and Justice League began to air. Another major addition was TOM's new companion SARA (added merely because a punk rock band had two band members named Tom and Sarah who were close), who helped run Toonami as the ship's AI, and things could only get better...Except for the loss of the Midnight Run, which was replaced by Adult Swim, which focused more on surreal comedy and some anime.
In this era, everybody who was anybody I knew what Toonami was and had already caught a hold of it. Where else were we going to watch Dragon Ball Z? Where else was anybody going to watch Justice League? How about Yu Yu Hakusho? Nickelodeon wasn't going to run any of that. It was all Spongebob this and Spongebob that over there!
By the end of this era, we got at three TIE events, the last one leading to another era of Toonami. In the September 2001 event Lockdown, Tom demonstrated his ability to keep the Absolution up and running by single handedly getting the ship's nuclear reactor and conduit systems back online.
In the September 2002 event Trapped in Hyperspace, TOM again took on the role of Absolution’s defender when the ship became infected with a virus shortly after entering hyperspace. TOM was able to get the ship's essential operation systems back online before crashing into Earth, and ultimately saved S.A.R.A. from the virus, earning TOM a moment of affection from S.A.R.A..
TOM 2 met his end in March 2003 in the online comic Endgame. After a space pirate named Orcelot Rex kidnapped SARA, TOM tried to rescue her, only to be destroyed in the battle and discarded in a trash dump. There, a group of fairly aliens repaired and enhanced his design into TOM 3 (much more muscular but still voiced by Steve Blum) defeat Rex and save SARA, which he managed to accomplish. The same alien race under Rex's terror thanked him by enhancing his ship as well, leading to another Toonami revamp.
The line-up of shows improved, the CG from the bumpers wasn't so cheap looking anymore and had a more cinematic feel, and shows were censored much less....But unfortunately, Toonami would no longer run on weekdays.
Their entire block was moved from every weekday, to every Saturday after the CN execs worried that parents would catch ahold of Toonami's excessive violence. This weekday version of Toonami was later replaced by a lighter-hearted action block known as Miguzi.
This block was themed around Erin, a girl who finds refuge within the confines of a strange spaceship that is trapped underwater and inhabited by aquatic creatures. Not surprisingly, this lighter-toned action block was from Williams Street, the producers of late-night programming block Adult Swim and Toonami. The critical reception of the block was mixed (I thought it was okay, but that was it.) People thought of it as Toonami's kid sister who tried hard to be like her older brother, but wasn't as good as her inspiration. Apparently, Totally Spies just wasn't up to Yu Yu Hakusho. (Code Lyoko was fine.)
Although many found it a bummer that we would only get one Toonami a week, the weekday version of Toonami only aired one hour of two random shows, while the weekend Toonami had 5 hours of regularly scheduled shows to compensate for all the weekdays, and the block now led up to Adult Swim, building a bridge from the kids' shows to adults' shows. And hey, there was no school on weekends, so I stayed up until I tanked out to sleep. This was the era of Toonami I remembered most fondly, as it was truly a staple on the network at this point. If I stayed at a friend's or cousin's place for the weekend, you better believed we watched this! So awesome...And Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Naruto, and One Piece were just starting to make their mark! Other than that, Toonami aired anime or action flicks such as movies from Hayao Miyazaki or Tim Burton's Batman.
In 2007, the next version of Toonami came out. The 4th version of T.O.M. was certainly a controversial beast. No longer the sexy visored droid we saw in the previous iterations, he had wide eyes, a small body, and stubby legs. The creators wanted an organic face for T.O.M, but a badass robot such as he only needed words and actions to be a badass. This iteration of T.O.M was lame...Well, at least he was friendly.
This newer version of Toonami would go on in infamy in the hearts of the fans. T.O.M.'s new look was a step back, S.A.R.A dissappeared, and the Absolution was dumped for an alien jungle enivironment...And we were never givin a back story or a Total Immersion Event...
T.O.M was givin sidekicks Flash (a perky robot who occasionally reviews) and T ( a wider robot who had a deep, gravelly voice and a sardonic attitude reminiscent of Moltar, who also performed the duties of manning the controls.). They were givin a mixed reception as well.
In this era, viewers started to leave. Not many new shows were airing besides filler episodes of Naruto or an episode of Ben 10. The block was cut from 5 hours to 2 before the lack of ratings and shows killed it. After 11 whole years, Cartoon Network's longest lived block finally bit the dust.
“Well, this is the end, beautiful friends. After more than eleven years, this is Toonami's final broadcast. It's been a lot of fun. We'd like to thank each and every one of you who made this journey with us. Toonami wouldn't have been anything without you. Hopefully we've left you with some good memories. So, until we meet again, stay gold. Bang.”
-TOM's supposed final speech.
I was almost left in tears when I saw this...This version of Toonami was lame, but having a Toonami was better than having no Toonami at all. Many of my friends and family asked what the hell happened to Toonami and if it's ever coming back, but I couldn't give them a conclusive answer as to what happened. After the outcry of Toonami's death, everybody moved on until Cartoon Network started airing live-action television and action blocks that lacked any essence. CN went downhill from here, and the only real shows worth watching anymore were Adventure Time and Regular Show 3 years later. Cartoon Network is still being panned right up to this day for all its decisions right after its Boston Bomb Scare incident.
It was truly the end of great era...One that made many childhoods...One that should've still been making more...It was all just a distant memory...Or so we thought....
4 years later
In the timespan of Toonami's death, many petitions and fan websites trying to recreate the simulation (such as NeoToonami and Toonami Aftermath) were created. Nothing could fill the void at this point besides Adult Swim, Regular Show and Adventure Time.... April 1st of 2012 became a special or supposedly special day... But let's go back to 2009...
In April 1st of 2009, Adult Swim aired the critically panned (and hilarious) film, The Room. After being aired in 2010 and 2011 it became a sort of tradition for Adult Swim to air this sh*t stain (of comedy gold) annually. 2012 arrived, and we pretty much anticipated more of Tommy Wiseau's (good) piece of diarreah and maybe some more shitty lies as usual...But then midnight hit... I jizzed my pants...
Adult Swim, right on their twitter account simply posted this: #Toonami
Toonami was back on TV! And in V3 form! I went fucking nuts. I jumped around like the 7-year old boy I used to be, and this soft, warm feeling bubbled in my stomach. Along with some Bleach, Toonami classics like Dragon Ball Z and Yu Yu Hakusho aired, and T.O.M had recorded new promo's and bumbers including a review of Mass Effect 3! Holy sh*t! The internet, especially Twitter, went nuts that night. Apparently everybody "Stayed gold" as T.O.M. had intended!
For the rest of night, I stayed up until the block ended (a very hard thing to do as I often tried "resting my eyes" during commercial breaks). In that time span, I was at one with my inner child. A lot of people were. The next morning, Steven Blum (T.O.M.'s voice actor) went crazy on Toonami posts on his facebook, citing his excitement on Toonami's possible permanent return. March prior, he did spill rumors focusing on Toonami, but it wasn't till the April Fool's prank that we learned what he truly meant. This was one of Steve's posts.
“For the record, Wikipedia, I did NOT say it's here to stay. ...But I sure hope so. Let 'em know you want it, people. Late. End Transmission. XO T.O.M.”
-Steve Blum on his facebook.
Later that same day, Adult Swim's twitter account treated us with this:
Want it back? Let us know. #BringBackToonami
For the 2nd day in the row, the Twitter-verse turned into a crazy bitch. Many tweeted the hashtag "#BringBackToonami" until it became a World Wide trend! But that wasn't the end...No, no, no, no, no, no! We then got this tidbit:
#BringBackToonami We've heard you. Thank you for your passion and interest - stay tuned.
And for last kick from the CN execs, two bumpers aired April 8th on Adult Swim answering tweets regarding Toonami.
So what's next? For now, all we can do is wait for the string of delicious news goodness. Many skeptics think that Toonami's return is a long shot; others feel that Toonami's return is imminent. Whether Toonami will come back is still a great matter of debate, we can only hope for the best. The last thing we can do until the final word of Toonami's fate is this:
Go to CartoonNetwork.com, select "contact us", then programming, then select "Toonami" as a topic. You can do the rest.
Please hope that the dream will become a reality again...Stay gold...